Note, this is not in chronological order.
- sales clerk
- bakery clerk
- substitute teacher
- web accessibility specialist
Elgin, Illinois 1969 – 1977
I started earning money by babysitting. First for my brother, then for children of family friends and even a relative or two. It was fine, but I definately tired of it after a while. I didn’t have a set charge and let the folks whose kids I babysat give me what they thought right. It usually was about a dollar an hour if I recall correctly.
Ben Franklin, Elgin Illinois 1973 – 1974
My first “real” job was as a sales clerk at Ben Franklin in Elgin. I wanted to go to England as an exchange student and needed to earn half of the cost of the trip. I worked after school and on weekends. It was fine. I learned how to count change. I met some interesting people. I was someone’s son’s birthday present one night. I quit before I went to England and the assistant manager, a woman who could be nice, but often chose to not be, told me, “fine, shop girls were a dime a dozen.” I think the most I made there was $1.70 an hour even though minimum wage was at least $2.00 an hour in 1974. I remember the manager telling us that he knew that minimum wage had increased but he could not afford to pay us that.
Zayre, Elgin Illinois 1975 – 1976
I am not positive about the years I worked at Zayre, but I know I worked there for a while when I was in community college. I think it was only until I got enough money to go to England. Zayre was a discount department store like K-Mart. I worked at the jewelry department. I didn’t like this job much at all, but I guess I didn’t hate it. I did end up with a lot of hours though because the manager often called me in when I was not scheduled because she didn’t like to work or something (she ended up being fired for stealing money from the register, so that must be how she made money). I probably made $2.30 an hour which was minimum wage.
Elgin Community College, Elgin Illinois Spring 1977
Looking back, this was a perfect job for me. I spent my time shelving books in the school library. I was paid to hang out in a library! I wish that I didn’t have my mind so damn set on teaching, because I think I would have made a really good librarian. I assume I was paid minimum wage which was $2.30 an hour.
Manor Pancake House, Elgin Illinois 1977 – 1979
Once again, in order to make money for a trip to England I had to find a job. I probably started waiting tables at the Manor sometime after Jeremy’s visit in the summer of 1977. I am sure my journals will tell me, but they are in a box in a closet filled with crap and I don’t feel like going down that rabbit hole this morning. Anyway, I worked at the Manor while I was attending Northern Illinois University (living at home, commuting three days a week). My hours were long — sometimes working the night shift. I worked almost 40 hours a week while going to school full-time. I was a better waitress than I was a student. I don’t know what I made an hour, but tips in a pancake house in the 1970s in a midwestern town were not something to write home about. The restaurant was my social life, so there was that.
Giant Eagle, Pittsburgh Pennsylvania 1981 – 1982
I don’t know if working in a bakery in a grocery store is considered food service, but let’s say it is. I supplemented my substitute teaching income by selling cookies, cupcakes and croissants to citizens of the East Liberty neighborhood of Pittsburgh. I liked my workmates enough. One of them had a day job working on the crew of Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood. I sold a croissant to Willie Stargell, but didn’t know who he was until someone told me, later. All I remember was that he was very nice and wore a fur coat and fancy brimmed hat, and that everyone stared at him. I probably made minimum wage ($3.35 an hour).
Bartlett Learning Center, Bartlett Illinois 1979 – 1981
After trying to get a teaching job with the Elgin school district, I didn’t know what to do so I did nothing. I continued working as a waitress until one evening my cousin called and said that there was a private school for special needs kids who needed a temporary substitute teacher. I interviewed and got the job. The school was in a convent (actually an “old nuns’ home”) and run by the Sisters of St. Joseph of the Third Order of St. Francis and I quickly became best friends with several of the Sisters who worked there. When Sister Jane, for whom I was substituting, returned from medical leave the school asked me to stay on as a co-teacher to help Sister Jane. The next year they offered me my own classroom. I might be teaching there still if Dean and I had not moved to Pittsburgh. I think my salary was somewhere in the low teens.
Substitute Teacher, Pittsburgh Public Schools, Pittsburgh Pennsylvania 1981-1982
While working on getting a teaching certificate in Pennsylvania I taught kids with special needs as a substitute teacher. I got called a lot. I was supposed to be up and ready to go in the mornings but I never was and was often late to the school. I didn’t know Pittsburgh that well and often got lost trying to find a school. I think I was a failure at substitute teaching. I also hated it. Pay was not too bad.
Teacher, Pace School, Pittsburgh Pennsylvania 1982- 1985
I interviewed at a few private schools as well as for the Pittsburgh school system and finally landed a teacher’s assistant position at a private school in East Liberty. After a couple of months they asked if I was interested in applying for a teaching position at the school when one of the teachers left. I was game and got the job. Pace was a school for students with learning and emotional disabilities (it is still around, although not in East Liberty and I don’t know what population it serves). When I was there it was funded by the school districts in and around Pittsburgh for students that the school districts had no programs for. I received quite an education at Pace. I taught a whole lot of angry children. I was punched a number of times, had chairs thrown at me, I was tackled once from behind. I was not prepared to teach such children, but I tried. Pay was probably low 20K
Teacher, St. Ann School, Arlington Virginia 1986 – 1991
After we moved to the DC area I took a break from teaching to work on getting a Virginia teaching certificate and to look for a job. I was hired by a company called Seton Centers that put special ed teachers in Catholic schools in the area. They sent me to St. Ann School. It may have been love at first sight. My years at St. Ann were definitely the best of any job I have ever had. The whole school was welcoming, from the principal (Sister Joan),to the fellow teachers, to the parents. The kids were well-behaved. I am still friends with the mother of one of the students I taught. The only problem was the pay (probably mid-20K).
Teacher, Rose Hill School, Fairfax County 1991 – 1998
I interviewed at several schools when I was trying to break into public schools. Some in Alexandria and some in Fairfax County. I was offered a position at a school in Alexandria, but the school was going through some issues and I didn’t want a bunch of drama in my worklife. My favorite interview was along what was called the Route 1 corridor — known for being a low-income area. I know I would have gotten that job if the county didn’t have a policy that an existing employee of the county had first dibs. The principal told me as much when he called to say he was sorry he could not offer me the job. I ended up being hired by an outgoing principal for a resource teacher position. Apparently his exit caused the exit of a number of teachers. The new principal seemed fine the first year — very granola, but over the next summer she got divorced, started dating the cluster supervisor, cut off her curly hair (rumor has it with a Flowbee), and exchanged “just left the farmer’s market dresses” with corporate professional clothes. She also lost her sense of humor and any shred of kindness she possessed. She was the one who asked me if I’d planned my pregnancy. Despite her, I liked the job enough to stick around for 7 years. I left when got into grad school. Salary — I don’t remember. Probably double what I made at St. Ann’s.
Web Accessibility Specialist, Caliber/ICF*, Fairfax Virginia 2001 to present
After graduate school I decided to change careers and interviewed at consulting companies to work on websites. I was hired by Caliber as a web content manager, but they quickly encouraged me to learn about web accessibility. A new law was about to come into effect that mandated that all government websites must be accessible. I was a quick learner and that’s what I am doing for this company, over 19 years later — evaluating websites for accessibility and remediating electronic documents so they can be used by people with disabilities. I have mostly enjoyed this job and I feel good about what I do for a living. And I have worked from home since 2003. Salary — let’s just say I will REALLY miss it when I retire.
*Caliber was purchased by ICF around 2005